This lesson is a nice follow up after you’ve taught the narrative tenses. I dug it out the other day and taught it to a class and it went really well so I thought I’d share it here. It’s pretty straight forward procedure-wise but it does look at the difference between different text types and allows for student creativity as well…which is always nice.
You could change it around a little and make it easier for lower levels by removing the past perfects and also, there’s a cheeky little passive in there as well to push the higher levels. I like to do it a week or so after I’ve taught the narrative tenses as a nice little review and consolidation but you can do it immediately afterwards as practice as well.
Level: Pre-intermediate and above
Materials: Cinema Queue – Narrative Tenses
It’s simple really, the idea is that you want them to have really thought about the story first before they tackle the grammar. You’ll really have to check your instructions here because in my experience students physically cannot ignore a gapfill exercise if you put it in front of them.
Tell them you’re going to give them part of a whole story and you want them to read through it, ignoring the gaps and then decide what happened to James. Encourage them to be as imaginative as possible as this will help later.
Let them discuss it in groups and then feedback as a whole class. Feel free to put their ideas on the board and feed them some language they’re struggling with as it will all help them later on.
At this point, I now let them tackle the gaps. I encourage them to do this in pairs or small groups and be very emphatic about the fact that if they disagree, they’re to explain why and discuss it as a group. You could also let them know that in some situations two answers might be possible. (e.g. “Was being shown” could be “was showing” in the cinema).
Now I like to switch the groups around a bit and get them to reconsider their answers as very often students tend to do things they “know” are wrong. e.g. using the present simple when they clearly know it’s the past. Mixing up the groups gives fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. Again, highlight that if the answers are different they should discuss them.
finally, allow them to turn over the page so that they can check their answers. Get them to highlight the ones they got wrong and discuss why they got them wrong. Then deal with these issues as a whole class.
The Text Message
This section can be done before the previous one if you like but I usually do it in this order.
Going back to their ideas of what happened to James, get your students to write the text message from James to Ben in the box provided. At this point I wouldn’t give them any pointers just let them at it, using any language you fed them earlier.
You’ll notice they probably use overly formal language or write overly long texts but it also gives them a chance to practise their narrative tense should they choose to.
Correct the texts as a class, focusing on formality and highlighting the differences between a text and a story.
Follow-up / Homework
Finally, send them off for homework to write the story from James’ point of view. I’d recommend a little bit of peer correction at the beginning of the next class to really nail down these tenses as we tend to find it very difficult to find our own mistakes in a second language.
Optional Extra Activities
So, if you find they’re not too bored with the story by now. Here’s a few extra things you could look at:
- Turning direct speech into reported speech.
- Examining punctuation in stories, direct speech.
- Look at the features of connected speech in the direct speech. I suggest the weak forms e.g. “Are you talking to me?” becomes /əjuːtɔːkɪntəmiː/.